The 2013 NHL Winter Classic has come and gone, setting a new record for attendance at an NHL game with over 100,000 fans braving the frigid temperatures to take in the event. But could the annual event begin to soon lose interest by fans of the game? Chances are slim, but we all remember how hyped everyone was for shootouts when they were first introduced in to the NHL, right?
With additional outdoor games being added to the schedule this season, including one to take place in Los Angeles, the chance of fans losing interest is rising. Is it likely that Tampa Bay or Florida will ever host this event? Probably not, especially since it probably isn’t possible with weather conditions. But why not allow one of these teams to participate, along with Nashville or Dallas even? Northern NHL teams and their fan bases will always have interest in the game and watch from home if they aren’t able to attend, but statistically viewership is lower from southern teams which could be due to lack of participation. Let’s be honest here, Canadians will watch pee-wee hockey if it were on T.V. without any other games being played. Tampa Bay could definitely be included in a game against Calgary, a rematch of the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals. Why not have a game in Colorado with Florida as the visiting team, the Alumni game alone would draw big interest from all over. Whether you’re a fan of Florida or not, a lot of people followed the famous 1996 “Cinderella Story” as the team reached the Stanley Cup Finals in only their third year of existence.
With the likes of John Vanbiesbrouck, Paul Laus, Ray Sheppard and former captain Brian Skrudland taking on Peter Forsberg, Joe Sakic, Uwe Kruup (SCF series clinching goal scorer) and Patrick Roy leaving the bench to once again guard the crease. The alumni game alone would be worth price of admission for the Winter Classic, not to mention two teams with some of the best young talent in the league on their respective rosters. Speaking of which, going back to the Tampa Bay argument, Steven Stamkos. Anyone ever heard of him? Quite possibly one of the games top goal scorers today, along with Marty St. Louis would be fun to watch on New Years day alone.
Maybe you recall Dallas playing Buffalo in the Stanley Cup Finals in 1999? The teams today don’t seem as appealing, but they do have some talented players that will definitely make for an interesting story. Who wouldn’t want to witness Tyler Seguin on HBO’s 24/7 series after all. Nashville has a ton of rivalries that could make for good game experiences for fan to witness, who may only get the opportunity during the playoffs.
One thing these possibilities all have in common is the potential to help grow the event beyond the same old settings. Such as it being announced that Washington would host the 2015 Winter Classic, facing off against Philidelphia. Bruce Boudreau is no longer in Washington and Bryzgalov has moved on from the Flyers. Where will the interest be, aside from the two teams fans or rival fans watching hoping to see them lose on such a big scale.
Personally, I didn’t even watch the Winter Classic this year. The 24/7 episodes were okay, but not what they once were as far as excitement goes. I’m also not a big fan of either team and while I hear it was a great game, I don’t feel like I missed much. You better believe I’ll be watching the outdoor game in Los Angeles though, the idea of an outdoor game being played in southern California alone is enough to spark interest even all the way in Florida.
Will the Winter Classic eventually die off? Probably not, but could it lose interest among fans league wide? It’s quite possible. Do fans in Canada care whether southern fans are happy or interested? There’s a good chance they don’t, but just remember that the NHL does and will eventually take notice. Just remember that despite being a poor team, Florida did have the 5th best selling jersey in the league at the start of the season once Tim Thomas signed on. There is interest, even from out of state hockey fans, enough so to purchase the jersey of a team they may not be otherwise interested in. If the team has a player respected around the league and in an event with exclusive jerseys the sales will be there and the NHL will capitalize on it.